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Passenger Varnish color schemes

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Passenger Varnish color schemes

Postby Gunslinger87 » Thu Nov 10, 2016 1:17 pm

Hey all, been a while once again. I have a quick question for you guys.

I'm trying to figure out what the colors schemes would have been for Southern and Central Pacific passenger cars between the 1890s and up to around 1905.

Also, what were the color schemes for the Los Angeles & Independence RR's passenger stock? I would wager a guess that they would have been a yellow of some sort based on the few photos I've seen.

Thanks in advance!
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Re: Passenger Varnish color schemes

Postby Andrew Brandon » Mon Nov 21, 2016 2:43 pm

This should help answer your question:

"For many years all of the passenger coaches, express, mail and sleeping cars of the Central Pacific Railroad have been a straw or yellowish color, unpleasant to travelers from the East, who are used to dark rich colors. The Sacramento Bee says the company has decided to repaint the cars and make them the rich dark color of Pullman sleeping cars of the present day, which is something darker than olive... There are, perhaps, 150 freight train cabooses to be painted a bright red color in place of the yellow, so that they can be seen at a greater distance.

The Silver State (Winnemucca), October 17, 1883.

As the article mentions, early on the cars were yellow but had wine colored letterboards and corner posts. The use of the "Dark Olive" color as described here may have applied to first class cars, while the others may have been painted Tuscan. CP/SP continued painting cars this way until 1903 when they switched to CS-1 "Dark Olive" with CS-2 "Olive Enamel", a slightly darker shade of the body color. Later this color would be called CS-1 "Coach Green". It is important to note that Coach Green is NOT Pullman Green, it is closer to Great Northern Empire Builder Green.

Randy Hees was able to do paint sampling on South Pacific Coast Railroad coach #39 which is down at OERM. We have a color card available for those findings on the site: Color Card: South Pacific Coast - Coach #39, Body. Except for the early yellow shade, the rest of the relevant colors are shown here in a swatch. Keep in mind this is the base color without varnish, if you are building a model it should be a touch darker than what is shown.

Here is SPC Coach #39 circa 1904, wearing the standard SP paint scheme for 2nd class cars.

As for the LA&I cars, they do appear to be yellow with a contrasting color letterboard in photos. After CP/SP took control of the railroad it is likely that they began to paint the equipment to match CP/SP standards.

Randy may have some corrections to this...
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Re: Passenger Varnish color schemes

Postby Andrew Brandon » Mon Dec 05, 2016 1:42 pm

A few days after I posted the 1883 newspaper note, I found an additional note in another publication.

Journal of Railway Appliances
July 1 1884.

The Central Pacific Railroad Co. is remodeling the Crystal Palace sleeping cars, and making out of them Pullman drawing room sleeping cars. Thirty-two are now in the shops, and when turned out they will be models of comfort and elegance. The exterior, with their Pullman color, a dark plum, striped and finished with gold, and decorated and ornamented in the highest degree of the painter’s art, is something superior to anything in that line ever seen on this coast. The interior is finished with an elegance not to be surpassed in any drawing-room, while all the conveniences and comforts of a first-class hotel are conveniently at hand. The panel work, frescoing, painting, upholstering, etc. is simply superb. The cars are not numbered, but named. Among those almost completed were noticed the “Palisade”, “Reno”, "Tuscon", "Yuma", "Cocopah", "Tulare", "Nevada", "Sonoma", "Alameda", "Solano", "Los Angeles", "San Pablo" and "Elko".


This adds some evidence that CP/SP was painting the 1st class equipment Pullman. This quote mistakes the "Silver Palace" cars for "Crystal Palace" cars as other references indicate this is the period when the Silver Palace cars were absorbed into the Pullman fleet and rebuilt. The Pullman color described sounds like the earlier Pullman color used from the 1860s on which was described as a Plum color.

The only thing I cannot seem to find is a date for when the "Plum" color became the "Brown" shade. Pullman cars started being repainted to "Pullman Green" after 1900.

Here are some additional notes: Pullman color is described as a dark Umber by 1887.

1887: An ‘article’ describing the order for the Colorado Midland’s ‘Aspen Series’ 10-section sleeping cars (in the Colorado Springs Gazette in late 1887 and the national magazine ‘Railway Review’ in July, 1887) notes that they were to be painted a ‘rich, dark umber’ along with the rest of the line’s passenger equipment.

February 22, 1900: On this day, the Pullman Company recorded in its book of ‘standards’ the adoption of a “new body color for all general service cars.”
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